Caterpillar to Butterfly Explanation
Name: Judy H.
Date: Tuesday, August 06, 2002
How do I explain for preschool the transformation from
caterpillar to butterfly?
Good question, Judy! I have worked on insect metamorphosis as an adult
scientist, but I well remember how thoroughly confusing I found the concept
as a child (long after preschool!).
You might try an analogy: Consider humans. Men and boys have the same DNA,
but look different, as do women and girls. A boy has the same DNA (I guess
you could say "instructions" or something to preschoolers) as he will have as
an adult, but a young boy cannot grow a beard. Likewise, a girl will
different body shape as she grows up. In both cases, the information was
there, but part of it was not used until the organism got older. In humans,
the changes occur gradually, while in butterflies, the changes occur more
suddenly, while the caterpillar is safely tucked away in the cocoon. What is
more, while humans just gradually change their bodies, caterpillars "throw
out" a large part of their old body, and use the information they have had
since birth to build a new one. That is why caterpillars and butterflies look
so different from each other.
Good luck! That is a tall order for preschoolers!
Paul Mahoney, PhD
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